Thursday’s Throwback with Leeann Betts

Giveaway and Excerpt

A Game is Afoot

Beginning a new series is never easy—particularly when it means the previous one has ended. Saying goodbye to characters we’ve known and loved and argued with is difficult. 

So instead of simply stopping one and starting the other, I came up with the great idea of writing a segue between the two. Actually, it wasn’t my idea—an author I know was asked by their published to write a bridge novella—I simply changed the name.

My first series took place from 2002 through 2006, moving slowly through the months. My main character, Carly Turnquist, was a 50-something forensic accountant, married to a computer programmer. She has two step-children, and two grandchildren, one of whom, in 2006, is six years old.

Fast forward to the present. Her granddaughter, Margie Hanson, a recent graduate of library sciences, inherits a mystery bookstore in Edgewater, Colorado, from her great-aunt who died under mysterious circumstances. Carly and Margie come to Colorado to figure out what happened.

Each book in the four-book series will feature a rare and/or expensive manuscript, contains a phrase from a vintage detective story, and is guaranteed to make you put on your thinking cap.


Excerpt from The Game is Afoot

Chapter 1

Margie grabbed her ringing cell phone and checked the caller ID. Her Great Aunt Rosella. “Hello?”

“Their voices assault my hearing.”

“What are you talking about, Auntie?”

A long sigh. “I already told you.” The older woman’s voice lowered a notch in both volume and timbre. “Their voices assault my—”

“I heard that. Who are you talking about?”

“The voices.”

Margie, newly graduated from Rutgers University with her Masters in Information and Library Sciences, sank back in the lumpy sofa of her off-campus studio apartment. She eyed the cloisonné clock perched beside her recently framed diploma—the clock a graduation gift from her aunt, the diploma the result of six years of diligent study. “Are you hearing voices?”

Three abrupt thumps, and Margie pulled the phone from her ear. What the—? Oh, right. Aunt Rosella often emphasized her displeasure by whacking the nearest tool at hand against the closest hard surface. In this case, her phone likely contacted a table. Or the wall.

“Don’t speak to me like I’m a batty old woman. I’m not hearing voices. At least, not in the way your tone implies.”

“Sorry. Tell me what’s going on.”

“What is going on, as you so eloquently put it, is criminal. And that’s all I’m going to say about the matter until I speak with you face to face.”

Margie unfolded her legs and sat forward. “Are you coming to Maine?” She hadn’t seen the older woman in years, although they chatted several times a year by telephone, and her aunt always remembered her on her birthday and at Christmas. And on the occasion of her graduation, of course. “That’s great. When?”

“I am not coming to you. You will visit me here in Denver. Immediately, if not sooner.”

“But—”

“No buts about it. I have a matter I need you to look into. You have an enquiring mind, child. I’ve always appreciated that about you.”

Margie smiled. “Must have gotten it from you.”

“Pshaw. Just because I own a bookstore dedicated to mysteries doesn’t mean I can solve them. It simply provides me a business reason to read as much as I like.” She chuckled. “But don’t tell the tax man.”

“My lips are sealed.” Margie glanced at the three letters on the coffee table. Job offers. Very good ones, at that. Her dream come true. One at a public library in a small town in Indiana where she’d be librarian, curator, and teacher. The second from a local law firm, where she’d be in charge of the law library and its tomes of precedents and cases. And the third at her alma mater, where she’d be assistant to the chief librarian. The problem was deciding which to accept. “But I can’t leave right now. In fact, I have to choose between—”

“Between helping me or abandoning me to the wolves.”

“Surely it can’t be as bad as that.” Spending her days surrounded by mysteries must be affecting her aunt’s mental processes. “Perhaps I could come out over Thanksgiving?”

“It will be too late by then.” Her aunt sniffed. “Never mind. I suppose there’s nothing you can do anyway. You have a good mind for mysteries, as I said. Not as good as your Grandma Carly’s, though. She’s got a mind like Dame Agatha’s. I’ll call and see if she’s willing to help this old woman.”

Margie shook her head, seeing through her aunt’s play for sympathy. She leafed through the letters. All three graciously gave her a month to decide, leaving her three more weeks before crunch time. Perhaps a quick dash to Denver for a week or so was in order. Getting away from Augusta might free her mind. Give her time and space to analyze her options. Make the best career choice.

And the mention of her grandmother gave her another idea. “How about if I call Grandma Carly and the two of us visit?”

“Oh, that would be grand. You can stay with me in the apartment over the bookstore. The spare room has two single beds ready and waiting for you.”

Interesting how the woman’s concerns immediately translated into vacation mode. Possibly things weren’t so serious—no, she’d said she’d come. “Grandma can make up for my shortcomings, and you can show us around your beloved Denver.”

“Oh, not my Denver, dear. My Edgewater. I never venture into the Mile High City.” Another sniff. “They sell drugs on every corner and call themselves medical dispensaries.” A sigh. “Such wickedness.”

Margie smiled. No doubt her aunt’s little burg also offered marijuana and other previously illicit pleasures, but she’d not spoil the woman’s Pollyanna view of her Edgewater, a tiny city nestled between Denver, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge. Situated beside a large lake. The park-like atmosphere with its quaint old-style downtown was exactly the Eden-like surrounding her aunt loved.

Margie scrolled to her calendar app. “I’ll call you back to confirm when we’ll arrive, and we’ll plan to stay a week.”

“With your grandmother’s help, that should be plenty of time.”

“Will somebody meet us at the airport?”

“Yes. My nephew, Arthur. You remember him, don’t you?”

Margie’s memory cast back to the far-in-the-past family reunions, recalling a weaselly boy with thick eyeglasses and a sarcastic tongue. Hopefully the years had changed him for the better. “Okay. Let me make arrangements, then I’ll call you with details.”

“Good. And bring the clock I sent you. It’s very important. Do you understand?”

“Okay.” She glanced up at the item again. After unpacking it yesterday, she hadn’t even bothered to wind it up. Just as well, since it would only run out in her suitcase, being a twenty-four-hour mini-version. Decorative, but not very practical. “Anything else?”

“A jar of Maine blueberry jam.”

“Got it.”

A long silence filled her ear, and she wondered whether her aunt had disconnected. Then a rustling sound. Almost as though Aunt Rosella covered the receiver with a hand. To keep her from hearing a conversation in Edgewater? Or to make certain somebody there didn’t hear what she said next?

Neither made sense.

And her aunt’s words only added to her confusion.

“The game is afoot.”


Giveaway: Answer the following question, and we’ll randomly draw from all answers for a print (US only) or ebook copy of The Game is Afoot.

Question: If you could choose your dream job, would it be (a) a librarian in a public library, (b) a small independent bookstore owner, or (c) a publisher. And why?


About Leeann

Leeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. Together she and Donna have published 50 novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, CAN, and SinC.

Website: www.LeeannBetts.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

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Wednesday’s Writer with Ann Brodeur

Interview and Excerpt

Today I have award-winning author of Christian Fiction, Ann Brodeur. Ann is here today to share her book, Snowbound in Winterberry Falls and tell us a little about the author behind the story. Welcome, Ann!

SNOWBOUND IN WINTERBERRY FALLS

Get your copy!

Ebook Canada: https://amzn.to/3529fZe 

Ebook US: https://amzn.to/3p48B5y

Paperback: https://bit.ly/36aKN7h


Unwrapping their past – one secret at a time.

Owning her own PR firm is all reporter Stephanie Clark wants for Christmas, but the idea of running a prestigious election campaign in the country’s capital throws her stomach into knots. A last minute vacation road trip to focus and seek God’s direction for her life ends up in disaster when she gets caught in the worst snowstorm to hit Vermont in over a decade, crashing her into a small town and the one person she’d rather forget.

Former photojournalist Jason Miller hadn’t planned on being solely responsible for saving his family business from financial ruin. He’s barely keeping the newspaper in print, his News Editor has gone AWOL during the town’s most celebrated holiday festival, and reports of missing Christmas decorations have everyone on edge. 

When a desperate knock at the newsroom door brings a ghost from Christmas past back into his life, can Jason make up for his prior behavior without breaking his promise to Stephanie’s father? Will Stephanie’s quest to solve the town’s Christmas caper—and uncover the truth about Jason’s disappearance—cost her everything she’s ever wanted? 

When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

I recently discovered my diary from when I was ten years old. We moved this summer and I found it in a box of my childhood books. In it, one entry simply states that someday I wanted to be a famous Christian author so I could tell others about Jesus.

Have you ever won any awards for your writing? I have. The piece that kicked off my writing pursuits, was an article I wrote about Childhood Apraxia of Speech. It received an honorable mention in the published category of Writer’s Digest Magazine’s Writing Contest in 2017. Two different novels I’ve written placed first and finaled in contests: RWA Indiana Golden Opportunity 2019, ACFW First Impressions 2019, TARA Award 2020, and RWA Orange County Emerging Writers Contest 2020.

Have you ever received a rejection?

I have. And let me tell you, it really sucks. BUT some of those rejections came with a lot of advice I took to heart. When an editor or judge takes the time to give feedback, writers should consider the points. I applied the criticism and was surprised at how much stronger my writing became.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I’ve been able to write a 50K draft in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Write in a Month), but it was a very rough draft and took lots of editing and re-writing to get a polished manuscript. I’m not eager to do that again!

How long it takes to write a book depends on family life. I have four littles at home and I homeschool all of them at the moment. If I can get thirty minutes of concentrated writing time, I’m having a great day. I can get a lot down on the page if I turn off all the distractions and focus on the story. It takes about three months to write a 60K story, and then two to edit it to the point I’m satisfied and ready to send it off.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to read! But I also like to crochet and play Blokus with my kids. We camp in the summers, so I love traveling with our family and exploring new areas. 



About Ann

ANN BRODEUR is an award-winning novelist who writes inspirational and contemporary romances offering sweet hope and happy endings. 

When she’s not reading, writing, chasing after her kids or enjoying long chats with her husband, Ann can be found drinking coffee. That’s been reheated several times throughout the day. She aspires to drink a hot beverage in one sitting.


Find Ann Online

Join other readers in finding out the latest news from Ann and for bookish fun, by signing up for my newsletter on my website: https://brodeurwrites.org/

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Thursday’s Throwback with Donna Schlachter

Free chapter excerpt and Giveaway!

Today I have Historical Christian fiction author, Donna Schlachter here to share her novel, Christmas Under the Stars.

This romantic suspense is set in Utah Territory in 1858 at the height of the westward expansion and wagon trains.  Edie is traveling west with her brother to meet up with another brother and his family who went ahead of them. Edie’s father was an itinerant preacher who barely managed to keep his family together. Tom is heading to California to hopefully start a church. Already we can see problems, at least as far as Edie is concerned. And although Tom is attracted to Edie, once he’s introduced to her and hears she shares the same name as the man traveling with her, he assumes they are husband and wife.

Although he didn’t ask for it, Tom is soon appointed as head of their wagon train, and a series of accidents and unfortunate circumstances threaten to sabotage their journey. But are these incidents more than that? Or is someone determined to prevent them from reaching their destination?

Through miscommunication and misunderstandings, Edie and Tom muddle through as best they know how, which is true of many of the emigrants. And the good news is that just like the travelers of the time, they do make it, although a little the worse for wear.

Get your copy!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ci5Xqq 

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2gZATjm


November 1858, Utah Territory
Edie Meredith strives to keep her temper and her tongue under control as she heads west with her brother to California. Raised in an itinerant preacher family, she promises she will never marry a man of the cloth.
 
Tom Aiken, drover of the wagon train, longs to answer his true calling: to preach, and while he realizes not every woman would choose a preacher for a husband, he hopes to soon find his help-meet.
 
Suspicious ‘accidents’ plague their journey. Is someone trying to keep them from reaching their destination? Or will misunderstanding and circumstances keep them apart?


Enter the Giveaway

Leave a comment to be entered into a random drawing for a print copy (US only) or ebook version of Christmas Under the Stars.


Read a chapter excerpt

Tom Aitken strode beside the lead wagon in the train, encouraging on the two lumbering oxen he could hear but not see. “Git on Blue, git on. Brick.” The beasts lowered their heads at the sound of his voice and strained into the traces. Tom grit his teeth against another blast of cold air blowing from the Canadian Rockies.

What had he been thinking, taking a wagon train to Echo at this time of year? He’d focused on the offer of free passage to California. Free, indeed. Might not have cost him any money, but the two-month journey was surely grinding years off his life. 

Digging his hands into his armpits, seeking some warmth, no matter how small, he trudged along, head down, wishing for a heavier coat. Echo was just a few more miles up this canyon. In good weather, a half day’s travel.

In this storm, forever.

As he debated whether to pull the wagon train off the trail and set up camp for the night, a faint cry echoed off the rock walls behind him. He slowed his step, allowing the oxen to pass him, waiting to hear the sound again. Nothing. He pivoted on one foot to trace his steps back, straining to see who was calling and whether they were friend or foe. Having spotted Indians several times over the past week or so, he was determined to stay alert.

Nothing but swirling, blinding snow. Lots of it.

He must have been hearing things. Probably just the wind echoing down off the canyon walls. No doubt where Echo got its name. He turned to face forward and felt someone – or something – press on his shoulder. His right hand on the knife in a sheath at his waist, he whirled around, ready to fight.

The man in the second-to-last wagon stood before him, face white with cold – or fear – and hands raised in surrender. His rough Irish brogue bespoke his heritage, and his coarse woolen coat and muffler his financial status. “I can’t find the Meredith woman.”

“I saw her maybe a ‘alf hour ago, when the wind stopped blowin’ long enough to see me ‘and in front of me face. Me missus remarked then that the lass was looking peaked.”

Tom grit his teeth against the sharp retort rising. Must he be like a mother hen to these travelers? No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than he repented of his hardness of heart. Lord, forgive me. Help her. Please. For her husband’s sake.

His silent prayer done, Tom gestured to his wagon. “Take my place as lead. Keep them straight on the trail. We’ve got just about twelve miles to go.”

The man nodded and Tom stopped, allowing the rest of the train to pass him. Although the rule was that only the very young, very old, and very sick got to ride in the wagons, sometimes folks hitched a ride when they were exhausted.

He sighed, his breath escaping like a puff of smoke from a chimney, carried off on the northerly gale. He’d have to check every wagon that passed to see if she’d climbed aboard.

If she hadn’t – well, he’d pray she was curled up in a pile of quilts rather than consider the alternative.

Tom plowed through a snowdrift nearly up to his chest. Edie Meredith wasn’t in any of the wagons. Her husband, Mark, as leader of the final wagon in the train, had been walking at the head of his team to keep them on the trail and hadn’t noticed when she’d gone missing. Tom stopped the train, and word passed up and down the line until all of the wagons paused. Women-folk and children climbed aboard their wagons to warm up, and the men divided into several groups to go in search of Miss Meredith.

 The man accompanying Tom heaved along behind him, his breath sounding labored in the cold air. Harnesses jingled as the huge oxen shook themselves and got comfortable as they waited, and questions chased him as he traveled the length of the train.

“Found her yet?”

“What was she wearing?”

“Prob’ly find her froze to death.”

Tom shook off this last comment and pressed on. No, he would find her before that happened. He’d noticed the pretty young woman the instant he joined the wagon train, her red hair lighting up into a thousand pinpoints of gold in the afternoon sun. Freckles dotted across the bridge of her nose as she stared at him, a smile creeping across her face.

But that was as far as their relationship was likely to go. The broad-shouldered hulk standing next to her, laying claim to her with his protective attitude and gruff voice was enough to keep any sensible man in his place. No siree, her husband was not to be trifled with. Mark and Edie Meredith. That’s how they were introduced to him. That plus Meredith’s, “She’s spoken for” when she’d smiled and bobbed her head at him, was enough to keep any sane man a sensible distance away. No matter how he might wish the situation could be otherwise.

For now, he would look for her because that was his job. 

And he was good at his job. Rather, his two jobs. Drover by day and preacher by night. Such a strange combination of occupations, he was certain. Still, the good Lord knew what He was doing, and drovering was just until he got to California. Then he would start his own church at the first town that needed him.

Tom peered into the storm, the faint outline of a shadow forming ahead of him, to the side of the trail. As he neared, he could have sworn he heard singing. A soft, lilting melody, like a lullaby.

A few more steps, and he paused over the form on the ground. Already snow gathered on her cheeks, filling in the concave hollows of her eyes, testifying to how cold her skin was that the particles didn’t melt.

He knelt beside her, fearing the worst. In a neat pile beside her, a pair of gloves and a shawl. Her coat unbuttoned, she looked dead.

But there, a slight flare of her nostrils confirmed there was life in her yet. He turned back to the man following him. “Over here. Over here.” 

The man came running, and together they lifted the unconscious woman and carried her to the nearest wagon. She needed warming up, and soon. 

He called to the man he’d put in the lead. “Pull the train over toward the palisades. There should be some caves around here that we can overnight in.”

The men hastened to do his bidding, and the wagon beneath him lurched, throwing him off balance. He landed in a tangle against Miss Meredith and stared into her green eyes, wide open in surprise.

 No doubt about it. She was beautiful. Tendrils of damp hair at her temples decorated her pale skin. But he couldn’t sit here admiring her. She was nearly frozen to death. Her blue lips and white complexion scared him. 

“What do you mean, man? Speak up.”

He was alone in a wagon with a desirable woman who needed his help. 

He unbuttoned his jacket and pulled her to his chest. The sudden chill took his breath away, but he persisted in his ministrations. As the heat flowed from him, he was gratified to note color returning to her lips. 

Her hands pressed against his chest, and he increased his grip on her. She needed warmth now. He’d heard of folks dying in the snow who’d stripped down to their underclothing.

He glanced at the woman now resting quietly in his arms, wishing he was holding her so close, so intimately, for a different reason.       

But she belonged to another.

He had no choice.


About Donna

Donna writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 40 times in novellas, full-length novels, and non-fiction books. She is a member of several writing communities; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; blogs regularly; and judges in writing contests.